Society Matters | Volume 30 No. 1 | Autumn 2020

3 Volume 30 No. 1 | Autumn 2020 Newly ordained missionaries urged to be ‘shepherds in the midst of God’s people’ It was a full, joyous house at St Paschal’s Chapel, Box Hill late last year as two young Divine Word Missionaries were ordained to the priesthood. Toub Anisong Chanthavong, who is the first person from Laos to join the SVD, and Simon Dominguez Prospero from Mexico, were ordained by Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli and have now taken up their first missionary assignments in the AUS Province and Central European Province respectively. In his homily, Archbishop Comensoli reminded Toub and Simon of Pope Francis’ frequent statements on priests needing to “smell of the sheep” and he also quoted from the Church’s new set of guidelines on the formation of priests: “The fundamental idea is that [priests should be] missionary disciples who are ‘in love’ with the Master, shepherds ‘with the smell of the sheep’, who live in their midst to bring the mercy of God to them. Hence every priest should always feel that he is a disciple on a journey, constantly needing an integrated formation, understood as a continuous configuration to Christ”. “Note the key words: missionary disciples configured to Christ; shepherds in the midst of God’s people; bearers of God’s mercy,” Archbishop Comensoli said. “Not ecclesiastical savvy; not intellectual subtlety; not personal prowess. In other words, the priesthood is not about what someone can possess, but about what he is willing to give. For all of us who are priests, this needs to be our constant self-examination: What am I willing to give of Christ to God’s people?” Fr Henry Adler SVD, who was Provincial at the time of the ordinations, said while the final vows Toub and Simon took earlier last year were the peak of their missionary religious formation journey, their ordination to the priesthood was a deeply significant occasion. “In my remarks at their ordination, I reminded our men that they are religious missionary priests,” Fr Henry said. “Now they are ordained priests and are ready to go and take up their mission.” Fr Henry said the ordination Mass was a wonderful occasion. “It was a full house with a broad multicultural representation and a very strong presence of lay people, taking part in the choir and the liturgy. It was a very joyous celebration,” he said. “And it was very good to have Archbishop Comensoli perform the ordination which provides another opportunity to connect with him in his diocese, in the local church, which is where, we as missionaries are called to serve, wherever we are.” The day after their ordinations, the new priests celebrated their first Masses in the local parishes in Melbourne where they served as deacons. Since their ordinations, both Toub and Simon have already taken up their first missionary assignments. Simon has been assigned to the Central European province, which includes countries such as Austria, Switzerland and Croatia, where he is hoping to join the SVD’s work with migrants and refugees. Toub has been assigned to the AUS Province for the Thai District. “Toub joined us in Thailand and we believe that his presence there as a priest will be significant,” Fr Henry said.